Health + Wellness

Secondhand Smoke and Rheumatoid Arthritis


effects secondhand smoke

While breathing in secondhand smoke is known to harm kids’ lungs, new research suggests that children whose parents smoked are also more prone to developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) later in life. Black patients with RA are less likely to be prescribed a biologic treatment and more likely to use glucocorticoids, which carry a risk of serious long-term side effects.

“Our findings give more depth and gravity to the negative health consequences of smoking in relation to [rheumatoid arthritis], one of the most common autoimmune diseases,” lead author Dr. Kazuki Yoshida, of the division of rheumatology, inflammation and immunity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston says.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease characterized by arthritis in multiple joints. Several genetic and environmental factors contribute to RA risk, and personal smoking is the most well-established environmental risk factor. But research into the link between secondhand smoke and rheumatoid arthritis risk has been limited.

READ: Deep Disparities Persist in Who Gets Exposed to Secondhand Smoke

To learn more, the researchers analyzed data from nearly 91,000 U.S. women in a long-term health study.

Those with childhood exposure to parents’ secondhand smoke had a 75% higher risk of rheumatoid arthritis, and the risk was even higher among those who became smokers themselves.

A mother’s smoking during pregnancy and years lived with smokers after age 18 were not significantly linked with rheumatoid arthritis risk, according to the report published Aug. 18 in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology.

“This relationship between childhood parental smoking and adult-onset [rheumatoid arthritis] may go beyond rheumatology,” Yoshida says. “Future studies should investigate whether childhood exposure to inhalants may predispose individuals to general autoimmunity later in life.”

The researchers note that their study was limited because it did not include men. They plan to continue their research with

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